Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov's breakout season on clay is about to face the ultimate test.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both secured straight sets victories at the Italian Open on Wednesday. Fognini, ranked 21, next plays Germany's Peter Gojowczyk before a possible quarter-final showdown with top seed Nadal. However, Nadal served out the set. But that was on a hardcourt surface, not Nadal's preferred clay.
Rafael Nadal's quest to regain the world No. 1 ranking began with a flourish on Wednesday when he dominated Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-0 in just 61 minutes at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.
Nadal, who lost his number world one ranking after his 14-match winning run on clay was snapped by Thiem in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last week, was back to his best as he wrapped up victory with a blistering forehand victor. One break in the first set gave the Italian veteran the set. Shapovalov reasserted himself late and dictating the pace of the tiebreak.
The second set was a one-way affair.
The Serb won 6-4, 6-2 in Rome, while local favourite Fabio Fognini upset Dominic Thiem in front of a partisan crowd.
Sixth-seed Thiem - who inflicted the first clay-court defeat in nearly a year on Nadal last week in the Spanish capital - took out his frustration on his racket as Fognini sealed his first win in three meetings with the Austrian.
"I played very well today", said Thiem.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas rallied to beat eighth-seeded John Isner in three tie-breaks 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5).
Defending champion Alexander Zverev stayed focused on his way to a 7-5 6-2 win over Italian wildcard Matteo Berrettini. "They finally understand me. But I think this is the first match of the year that I've felt like this", insisted Osaka, who struggled with her backhand. "I ruined a few flowers but I think the federation can afford to buy some new ones".
Fognini went onto see out the match to advance to the last 16, whilst Thiem will prepare for the Lyon Open in France next week, in preparation for a tilt at the prestigious French Open in Paris at the end of the month.
"It's a loss which is not too painful, which is just motivating me for the next weeks", the Austrian said.
Previous year in Rome, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a lead and the championship to Elina Svitolina.
In the process, the 16-time Grand Slam champion created yet another record when he notched up his 100th bagel on the ATP Tour - the most among active players.
At 5-5 in the third, Pliskova got engaged in a lengthy argument after she had an overhead smash called out. He broke in the 11th game and later served out the set.
After the match, Pliskova didn't shake hands with the chair umpire and struck the chair several times with her racket.
Former No. 1 Angelique Kerber rallied past Irina-Camelia Begu 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, and 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina eliminated American qualifier Danielle Collins 6-2, 6-3.